Apparently, a tire blowout is listed as one of the biggest fears of highway drivers. With good reason too, since tires are the only thing connecting the cars that we drive to the road.
It is said that a blowout is dangerous regardless of how good a driver you are or how technologically advanced your car is. They have supposedly gotten better over time, but search a little bit on YouTube and you’re coerced to think otherwise. Such an event can lead to total loss of car control, meaning that you could either walk away completely unscathed or find yourself in ashes kept in a tiny box. I, on the hand, am a man of nonchalance. If I’m not lucky enough to win big on a Baccarat table, I sure as hell will never experience a flat tire.
A couple of nights ago, that was all about to change. Even worse than a flat tire, the tire blew at high, high speed. The results of such an occurrence varies depending on the speed and the circumstances of your surroundings. They say that the lower your speed, the higher the chances of survival. A blowout at 60 km/h will be far less catastrophic than one at 150 km/h. More importantly, walking away from a tire blowout at those speeds is considered a gift from God - one that I so gladly received.
I was cruising at speed in SCTEX. I will not insult your intelligence by saying that I was not driving over the speed limit, because I was. Do you know what it feels like to drive an Audi at 100 km/h on a perfectly paved empty road? The car is so well-built, you feel as if you could walk faster than that. I used the word “cruise” because I wasn’t zig-zagging through cars like a buffoon. It doesn’t make it right, but I’m not about to start lying to you.
Before you get any wild ideas that I thrash cars, media units especially, I don’t. I respect the cars, not only because they’re generously shared by local distributors, but because I treat them like people. And people have feelings. It’s easy to thrash a car that’s garbage. In any case the A4 is a lot of things, but garbage isn’t one of them. I’m not one of those that enjoys speeding through bumps and pot holes like I'm in a Monte Carlo Rally. I'll leave it to 'em sweet potatoes.
When the tire blew out, I thought at first that a pebble hit the car. It took a while for me to consider anything else because there were no cars in sight. A couple of minutes later, a tire pressure warning flashed on the A4’s fancy virtual cockpit - and that was about the only time I really shaved off some speed. Nothing felt off about the car, so I thought it was a computer malfunction. After two minutes, the car started to wobble a little bit, so I pulled over to the side. When I hopped out of the car, I saw the tire completely deflated and up in smoke. I had burnt through the deflated tires with barely a clue of the severity from inside the car.
Thank God I wasn’t alone, and that my cousin Nico, seemed to be quite enthusiastic about changing tires. Maan and Gianna helped us sort out the right tools and they lit up the area with their mobile phones. I was utterly useless in the middle of the darkness. No occurrence has exposed my deficiency in practical car knowledge more than this. When I pulled out the deflated tire, the inner part was cut and slashed up. It appeared to be a tire failure since no nail, screw, or debris punctured the rubber. In its replacement was the donut tire which had a maximum speed of 80 km/h. We were a long, long way from home.
You'll want to follow yourself.
I am asked countless times by people to shed light on the price tag of expensive luxury cars, and I never share anything relevant to its safety features. I never tell them how many airbags it has or how effective their collision mitigation systems are, because, well, they’re boring. See, I just lost you there. It's like having deliciously charred beef kebab and talking about the steel stick that holds the meat in place.
You only really get to appreciate the premium on the price tag when something like this happens. Not once did the car lose control or feel unsettling. Had the computer not sent me a notification about the sudden loss of tire pressure, I would’ve carried on until the tire completely ripped itself away from the wheels. The A4 always had it under control. Not me, the car. It's rather sensational too.
Transcend through generations.
It’s no secret that I am a BMW person, but when I first drove the A4 last year, I felt that it had something that the Bimmer couldn't quite hack. And that, for me at least, is its desirability. You see, the problem I have with the 3 Series is that it is already a very sporty sedan, and yes, there's much to love. However, even in its most luxurious trim with slabs of wood gracing the interior, there is a piece of it that feels like it's pretending to enjoy having a 2-liter diesel heart, when in fact, it is dying to be a high strung M3.
The 318d and an M3 share the same philosophy, only that the M car got the better end of the bargain. The 3 Series lineup across the board aims to be the benchmark in driving dynamics, and it is, especially with its rear wheel drive magic, delicious steering, and tail wagging antics. As a car to drive, I find little fault in it, other than the fact that I know it is several notches below what it really wants to be. This is where the A4 completely shines, because it's oozing with confidence in what it is and doesn't care about anything else.
How to beat the benchmark.
The A4 whether gasoline or diesel, is oblivious to the existence of the RS4. It knows that it is a completely different entity from the RS version, and Audi has nailed this to absolute perfection. In other words, the A4 has a big dick and it’s comfortable under its skin. The moment you drive within half a kilometer, you know it’s for the established. It’s a tool that has everything an executive will ever need, apart from the lack of a rear-view camera, which is a sad oversight.
Nonetheless, the car is fantastic and it makes no fuss about its shortcomings too. Audi’s MMI system is not user-friendly at all. You need a degree in computer science to understand how all of it works. It’s all over the place. It is the opposite of BMW’s benchmark iDrive, but in a way, there’s something about a confusing system that makes you bond with the car more. It requires more time and dedication. At least there’s Apple CarPlay and that simplifies things for most of us.
Cutting edge technology.
I love driving this car. The 2-liter diesel engine has more than enough poke than I need in this country. It’s quick, and the S-Tronic gearbox is even quicker. The shifts are so fast, you won't catch it shifting if you blinked. There’s something about how a dual clutch transmission slams the gears home, and no one does it better than the Volkswagen Group. I’m in love with the cabin of this car. I’m honestly not a fan of any kind of aluminium trim, but this one works. There are so many straight edged lines and it makes for a clean and timeless design - a contrast to the interior of the new A6. The seats are comfortable too, but I did struggle for a while trying to find the correct seating position. I couldn't make up what the issue was, but my legs and ass always went numb.
The steering is too light, but you can override it with more weight through the car’s settings. The power is driven to the front wheels, which I shouldn’t like. However, in this car, there’s so much composure and mechanical grip, you’d have to be real idiot to understeer and wrap it around a post. The torque is relentless and satisfying. You can easily pass a car or two in the smallest of gaps. It’s so quick, yet so frugal. The time I had it with me, I had an average of 15.2 kilometres per liter. It’s a mix of drives out of town and bumper to bumper traffic in EDSA and Makati. I drove about 530 kilometres on it in one tank, only to find out that it has a puny fuel tank capacity of just 40 liters. This car doesn’t seem to like fuel very much, and I'm good with that. You would be too.
Surely, there are better specs, better features, and even bigger wheels. Personally, I would be very happy to own this exact one. It is so understated and wonderfully confident. Those wheels look sporty without shouting too much. It’s like a finely tucked pocket square that complements the overall suit rather than drawing all the attention to one piece. It is quite common for me to review cars that I like, but seldom do I review something that I would love to own.
The A4 is so well put together and so beautifully relaxing to drive. It’s docile for the most part, but engaging when you ask more from it. Everything works perfectly and it's oozes of quiet confidence. It loves being an A4, and that makes me love it too. It has a serene aura that makes you hop out of the car - calm, happy, and immensely satisfied. And to top it off, there isn’t a better car to have a tire blowout at speeds you really shouldn’t be doing. It's money well-spent.
The lap and mind of luxury.
Thankfully, Audi Philippines delivered a new tire and wheel the following day so that we could continue the shoot. They were in contact with me the entire time and were extremely helpful with the situation. No car distributor today hands over their cars better than PGA Cars Inc. does. The attention to detail of the experience starts as soon as you walk in the door. You should try it just for kicks.
Take one for a drive.